Alderman Zielinski Brings Problems of City Charter Schools Front and Center

The Steering & Rules Committee took up several important city 2R charter school reforms on Thursday afternoon.

The Steering & Rules Committee took up several important city 2R charter school reforms on Thursday afternoon.

We attended Thursday’s Common Council Steering & Rules Committee, where several motions of interest surrounding Milwaukee Public Schools were discussed.

Here is a recap:

Alderman Tony Zielinski brought forth a motion to the Milwaukee Common Council’s Steering & Rules Committee that would have put a 5-year moratorium on expansion of new city charter schools. These third party charter operators have a poor track record and like all other schools that are not publicly run, they have no restrictions on who they educate, allowing them to push out students they deem undesirable. They are also not accountable to a public school board, elected by the people of Milwaukee, but rather they are an appointed review board with a dubious record of oversight.

Unfortunately, the motion was defeated, with only Alderman Zielinski voting in favor. We applaud Alderman Zielinski’s efforts and appreciate that he understands that the proliferation of 2R city charter schools are strangling the life out of MPS and will push the district into bankruptcy. This fight is only beginning. We will continue to battle until all our schools are back in the hands of Milwaukee’s democratically elected school board, not unelected commissions.

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Watch video of the entire hearing here.


Alderman Kovac proposed an ordinance requiring the Charter School Review Committee (CSRC) to provide in their periodic evaluation of each charter school an assessment of how its operation would affect the resources available to the students of MPS. This passed unanimously.

Kovac also proposed taking the CSRC’s staff out of the grasp of Howard Fuller’s institute at Marquette and replacing them with the publicly accountable staff of the City Clerk. In addition, President Michael Murphy declared that CSRC meetings would now be televised. These are changes that have long been asked for in making the CSRB’s activities more transparent to the public. This also passed unanimously.

Finally, the S&R Committee also took up a request for a new five-year charter for King’s Academy. Several Aldermen expressed concern over a long record of poor performance. The school’s CEO even admitted in testimony to the committee that the school had no working website. Murphy offered a motion renewing the school for two years, which is two years too long, but a clear improvement over a 5-year renewal. Kovac said he’d prefer a one year extension; Zielinski wanted none. The school received a 2-year extension despite these facts and the fact it was already on probation with support from all Aldermen present except Zielinski.

Alderman Zielinski Presents 50-Year Moratorium on Milwaukee City Charter Schools from MTEA Union on Vimeo.

We need to keep pressure on the Steering & Rules Committee members until they recognize that these charter schools cannot operate a year longer.

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This is Why Milwaukee Needs a Moratorium on 2R City Charter Schools

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The Takeover of the Milwaukee Public Schools didn’t just start with Senator Alberta Darling and Representative Dale Kooyenga’s MPS Takeover bill. It started decades ago and one of the ways it has pecked away at MPS is through the proliferation of 2R city charters. These third party operators are issued charters by the city of Milwaukee. They have a poor track record and like all other schools that are not publicly run, they have no restrictions on who they educate, allowing them to push out students they deem undesirable. They are also not accountable to a public school board elected by the people of Milwaukee, but rather they are an appointed review board with a dubious record of oversight. Our schools need to be accountable to the elected Milwaukee Board of School Directors and not an appointed review board and the four city charter schools highlighted in this blog, show exactly why.

 

Milwaukee Collegiate Academy

Milwaukee Collegiate Academy is a 2R city of Milwaukee charter school. It operates outside the Milwaukee School Board and is instead accountable to a appointed board.

Milwaukee Collegiate Academy is a 2R city of Milwaukee charter school. It operates outside the Milwaukee School Board and is instead accountable to a appointed board.

Milwaukee Collegiate Academy is in its 11th year of operation, first as a private voucher school and now a Milwaukee City charter. In both 2011-12 and 2012-13, the school expelled 11% of its students. In 2013-14 it expelled 16% of its students. That’s 5 times more expulsions than any other City-chartered school and 10 times more than Milwaukee Public Schools high schools. Its suspension rate was 56% in 2011-12 and 42% in 2012-13, higher than any other City charter school or MPS high school.

 

Northpoint Lighthouse Academy

The city charter school Northpoint Lighthouse Academy is housed in an abandoned factory.

The city charter school Northpoint Lighthouse Academy is housed in an abandoned factory.

North Point Lighthouse Academy is a Milwaukee city charter school run outside the control of the local school board. Sadly for its students, It is located in a former steel fabrication plant amid industrial and commercial properties and has an electricity tower and a transformer in back. In 2012-13, the school paid a $111,378 management fee to its parent, Lighthouse Academies as “pay down with interest” on prior funding.

 

Milwaukee Math & Science Academy

The Milwaukee Math & Science Academy has has several affiliates recently raided by the F.B.I.

The Milwaukee Math & Science Academy has has several affiliates recently raided by the F.B.I.

In June 2014, FBI agents raided 19 of its schools in Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. In July, the corporate headquarters in Illinois was raided. An FBI statement said they were part of “an ongoing white collar crime investigation.” Also in July 2014, the Ohio Department of Education began an investigation into alleged “attendance rate falsification and test tampering” at a Concept Schools facility. Other investigations concern its use of H1-B visas (Visas made available for workers in areas of high need) to bring teachers from Turkey when there is a supply of local teachers.

 

King’s Academy

King's Academy has been a school for 16 years with little results to show for it.

King’s Academy has been a school for 16 years with little results to show for it.

King’s Academy is in its 5th year as a City charter; before that it was a private religious voucher school for 11 years. In December 2014, the City’s Charter School Review Committee recommended putting King’s Academy on probation, because of poor academic performance and high turnover in staff and administration. In its 16th year as a school, it “hasn’t risen to the level one might expect” (Review Committee member) and has experienced extremely high teacher turnover.

Milwaukee Alderman Tony Zielinski has authored a resolution for a 5-year moratorium on any new City of Milwaukee charter schools. It’s a significant step in the right direction to start to turn back the Takeover of MPS. This resolution will be introduced at the Steering & Rules Committee hearing on Thursday, June 11th. We need to turn out a large crowd for this hearing, in order to begin the process of putting Milwaukee schools back in the hands of the people, and not unelected commissions!

What: Steering & Rules Committee hearing on a 5-year moratorium on any new city of Milwaukee 2R charter schools.

When: Thursday, June 11th @ 1:30pm

Where: Milwaukee City Hall, Room 301-B

Facebook event page can be found here.